Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Solution To Your Musical Problems

Last Saturday I was rehearsing at a music store called Piano Solutions. I go there when I know I won’t be able to focus at home, or right before I have a performance, or both. The guys that run the place are wonderful – especially Brian, the owner. He always takes time to catch up with me and share a story or two. He had recently been to Japan for a piano convention and talked about how the concept of time is so different there. But that is how he always is with me, right here in the U.S. He rarely seems to be in a hurry and he gives me full attention when we talk. And he always compliments me on something or other, so that doesn’t hurt, either!

If it’s available he lets me play the even-bigger-than-a-9-foot-concert grand (I believe it is 9 feet, 2 inches.) Made by Bechstein, I say it has my name on it. . .It’s in a separate room from most of the other pianos, and I can play all afternoon, as long as other customers aren’t using it. If customers do walk in, I play quietly, or talk to them as if I were one of the salesmen, too.

A dad and daughter were testing some pianos in the room, and the girl, Lauren, 5 ½ years old, gravitated toward me. She was an energetic goofball – bright, talkative and always looking for a laugh. I asked her if she was taking lessons and she said no, she was going to start by making up her own music, and then do lessons later. “Oh, that’s what I do,“ I said. “Why?” she said with a slight sneer. “Because it’s fun,” I said.

She flitted back to dad, back to me, back to dad, back to me. Lauren had long, dark hair, brown eyes and olive-y skin. She also had a rich low voice and laugh, like she hadn’t quite swallowed a bite of rich, dark chocolate.

As we talked I played, just improvising things under my fingers. She talked about running, so I made running music. She asked about an octopus, so I folded my thumbs in and said ”now I can be an octopus, I only have 8 fingers,” and started frolicking around on the keys. Lauren had a different idea and was using the full length of her arms to flop and mimic the tentacles.

Dad was worried that she was bothering me. “Stop being so shy,” he shyly said to her, and finally, they headed out of the store. “Bye, Lauren,” I waived.

When Lauren left and I was alone again, I became an octopus, my tentacles flopping from high to low on the keyboard. Then a dolphin, splashing and smiling and smirking and enjoying some dissonant half steps. The shark in me ate up some big strident chords and spewed them from octave to octave. I was “playing” again, and for that, I was thankful. I came upon some chords that I hadn’t thought about using in a particular section of a new piece I was working on, and had fun figuring out several ways to solve a problem I was stuck on.

I was wiped out from playing when I got home, and then my back went out the next day, and I still can’t sit comfortably at the piano today. But I’m looking forward to healing and listening again to what I created a couple of days ago. To see if all the puzzles of this new piece are starting to fit together. Thanks to a reminder to relax and play around, rather that stress over the unfinished product.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Here Goes Nothing

I'm filling out a blank page at Einstein's in Broadripple, a village-y place with good coffee and regulars who know my name. They know that when I have a pad of paper with me, I'm there to write, so we just exchange a few kind words before I park myself at an empty booth.

Before I arrived I was thinking that the process of staring at blank pages required practice, just like the ritual of writing words or musical notes. Because once I've started, I'm excited and energized and working mostly pretty happily. It's the moment right before that is most frightening. You wonder if an original thought has ever or will ever enter your head again. You question the worthwhile-ness of attempting to put your thoughts down. Or perhaps you feel empty -- like there really isn't anything to say.

In my last post, "Thoughts on Art and Chocolate," there was a moment of nothingness that preceded a flurry of activity and creativity. And following that nothingness, there was a gift from above -- an idea.

So I can see three parts so far:

1. Nothingness
2. Idea
3. Creativity and Activity

Now I'm wondering - What happens before the nothingness??

Is there a constant? A step toward facing the blank page? Aside from an inner need to express oneself, or a "should"?

I'll be thinking about it.